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Help a noob pick out gear and answer questions!

Discussion in 'Recording' started by motor4832, Apr 20, 2012.

  1. motor4832

    motor4832 Active Member

    So I've finally made the decision to piece together a cheap home studio to record my band and other local groups. I already run live shows so I have some equipment. This is what I have to work with...

    -PC I built (i7-2600k, 8GB DDR3 2000 RAM, 2x1TB 7200RPM HDD) plus a laptop with similar specs
    -FL10 DAW
    -Behringer XENYX X2442 USB Mixer
    -Sennheiser HD 380 PRO Headphones
    -CAD PRO-7 Drum Mic Pack
    -MXL 990 Condenser Mic w/ shockmount
    -MXL 993
    -Shure SM57
    -Shure SM58
    -Shure PG58
    -various instruments, amps, PA speakers, cables, stands, mini fridge
    -an empty, unfinished basement

    As far as I know, all I really need is an interface(at least 8 XLR and 3 line ins) capable of recording multiple channels, and studio monitors.
    Are there any other necessities I'm missing?

    DAW wise, I've experimented with Audacity, Reaper, Cubcase, and Fruity Loops. I like FL the best.
    Is Pro Tools really that great compared to FL(or others mentioned above) and is it worth the $$$? any standout features?

    Do those passive direct boxes noticeably increase quality when recording guitar/bass?

    Preference when recording guitar and bass: mic up your amps vs. amp line outs vs. plugins and synths

    I'm a novice so obviously my experience and abilities are going to limit the quality of my recordings, but do you have any general tips to guide/help me out.

    I know this is a ton of random questions, but any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I always thought my career would have benefited me by moving to California? But I see you are already in California Maryland? So that seems like a good place to start?

    The only thing that you might be missing is the sad fact that ProTools is one of those pieces of software that, while I don't like or use mine much, is something closest to an industry-standard that can be more easily interchanged between more professional studios than other softwares'. The question of whether it's worth the money depends upon if you feel that an additional, somewhat inexpensive computer audio interface that has it bundled or whether to invest $600 in just the software so that you can use it with anybody's hardware, only you can answer. $450 US will get you an M-Box with ProTools 8 and even less on the used market. If you have some higher-end specialty hardware and want to run it, you'll need to spend $600. Either way, both versions are compatible with virtually any other version on any other platform. But then if you look at standalone digital recorders, is that more practical in comparison to a computer? Everything has its place and purpose. I utilize both standalone digital recorders and my numerous computers. Can you record 24 simultaneous tracks into your computer at a reasonable cost? I know my Alesis HD 24 XR didn't cost any more than three 8 track FireWire computer audio interfaces and is far more reliable and easier to work with.

    Equipment you currently have is 100% adequate to record local bands. Can one produce a professional recording with what you have? Of course because it's really only limited to what your capabilities are. You are obviously already competent enough to run live sound. So you already have an advantage over the other enthusiasts just starting out. There are interfaces that will accommodate 8 XLR microphone inputs along with some line level inputs. Will that be enough to track an entire band simultaneously? We all have frequently managed to do so albeit it may be slightly limiting? I don't like to have less than 16 simultaneous channels for recording and generally prefer 24 which is frequently more than is necessary depending upon the application.

    Regarding passive transformer DI boxes, those are perfectly fine when you are taking outputs from electronic keyboards, outputs from bass guitar heads. Most of those have 50,000 ohm transformer isolated inputs. Where it becomes a matter of plugging in the output of the guitar directly, it's doable but there are some limiting factors involved. Most guitar pickup coils want to see a high impedance input on the order of at least 1 million ohms for a full fidelity transfer. That's where the transformer ones fall a little short. Though I also have utilized those in the good old days directly on bass guitar outputs. The better alternative for taking guitar pickups directly is with an active, phantom powered, DI box since those are a very high input impedance virtually identical to the inputs on guitar amplifiers and will not load the guitar pickups down.

    Certainly my preference for recording electric guitars is to put at least one microphone on the guitar amplifier speaker because that's part of the sound. One can do the same with bass guitar is I prefer to take a direct either off of the bass guitar directly or out of their amplifier which many have a special output jack just for that purpose. Others like to combine both microphones and a direct but there are timing issues that have to be dealt with otherwise, funky sounding phase cancellation will happen no matter how close you get the microphone to the speaker. Unless that microphone is a good distance away where the timing variances will not conflict with each other. That way one can obtain a more ambient sound on the guitar while also benefiting from the direct output. But that's going to sound way way different from the way it should with an electric guitar and maybe not so much with the bass guitar.

    I would expect a ton of questions and I'm always happy to answer them. So what else?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  3. motor4832

    motor4832 Active Member

    Wow, thanks for the very quick respone and all the good info! Very helpful.

    After a lot of research, I'm seriously considering making the leap to Pro Tools. It's a big step, and a costly one at that, but I figure it'll be worth it in the longrun. Plus I figure if I'm gonna get PRO tools, there's no better time to buy it than when I buy a new interface. I've been shopping around for interfaces and the Tascam US-1800 appears to be the best bang for your buck by far. Do you have any opinion on Tascam? The only negative thing I've seen in reviews for this particular interface is that some people believe it has noisy preamps. Other reviews however say the exact opposite. I want a good clean interface and I feel like this one would fit my budget perfectly. I honestly could spent up to about 600 on an interface, but I feel like this will suffice because I'm not going to see much of a difference in quality anyway and it has enough inputs for me.

    If you were just starting out with a home studio and had $1000 to spend, would you drop $700 for Pro Tools and buy this interface[Tascam US-1800] for $300, or would you just forget Pro Tools and stick with FL 10 or Cubase 6 as your DAW and spend more on an interface? Assuming you were in my position and only really need 8XLR ins and 4 line ins. I'm very comfortable with FL and like its ease of use. Cubase on the other hand, I don't like nearly as much and find it more difficult to use (probably because I haven't useed it enough to learn all the ins and outs). I'm sure Pro Tools will be more like Cubase in terms of being user-friendly, but the fact that it is such an industry standard and the way people talk about ease and versatility of post production within PT makes me think it'll be a good investment. On another note, there is a lot more material availibly on the web for learning how to use and fully utilize Pro Tools.

    Haha, I feel like I may be overthinking this, but I'm about to spend a good chunk of money and how I spend it is going to dictate the quality of my productions. I like getting lots of opinions because there are plenty of people out there that know way more than me when it comes to audio production.
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Here is my take on this. The TASCAM stuff is most certainly usable but not what I would call high-end esoteric. It gets the job done no question about that. The microphone preamp's? No. The line inputs? Adequate. So this is a bit of a Catch 22. If you spend $600 for ProTools so that it can work with anybody's hardware, I wouldn't recommend the TASCAM stuff. If you spend $600 on any Avid/Digi M-Box Pro that includes ProTools you will be getting some better preamps IMHO. But that will probably be bundled with ProTools 7 or 8 which is not compatible with anybody else's hardware. So, sure, you could shell out $600 for ProTools and be ensured of the fact that you could couple it with the TASCAM to begin with and then still be able to move up to better hardware at a later date. Only you can decide what's best for your purposes.

    My workaround is little different. I purchased a few years ago a M-Box 2 bundled with ProTools 7 (which was the latest version at the time). But I really don't care for the M-Box 2's audio section (inputs). Everything I record, is recorded through my API and/or Neve to a Alesis HD 24 XR. Then, if somebody wants to mix and/or overdub, I'll use the FireWire adapter to transfer the HD 24 tracks into the computer. From there, ProTools can be utilized for mixing and/or even overdubs within ProTools should one want to. But I can also dump back to the HD 24 XR and utilize my more pure signal path from the API and/or Neve and then jump back to the computer again to mix within ProTools. If and when I decide to upgrade to the later versions of ProTools, I never have to use their crappy M-Box 2 again.

    I'm always thinking outside of the box, anybody's box
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  5. Neolexia

    Neolexia Active Member

    Here's my take on DAWs

    FL Studios get a bad rep as many call it a "noob" DAW because it's very easy to pick up and everyone is a hipster now-a-days. However, if you know it like the back of your hand, stick to it. There's no reason to learn over another DAW if you're comfortable with it. It's usually about the plugins and VSTs that make up what you do anyways.

    With recording however, I would suggest Pro-tools. It's truly everything you'll need. I see you suggested Audacity in there. Audacity is good for last second quick-action things. I personally use it to change sample's BPM & use it as a quick fade in/out. It's not very "industry standard" for anything else if you have Pro-Tools.
  6. Toothgrinder

    Toothgrinder Active Member

    I definitely would not recommend Cubase. I'm not sure why, but it has weird bugs about it that just are NOT compatible with professional.. anything! At least that was my experience with it. It would intermittently crash on me at the WORST times, and sometimes for no apparent reason (like just tracking an acoustic guitar with no VST's running or anything.) It also started incorporating crackling noises into the actual recorded tracks, and when I did my research it said this was related to Cool n' Quiet, a processor energy saving feature on my AMD machine. So I hacked Windows and I fixed it. Doesn't happen in Reaper nor do I get it in ProTools, but Cubase? Sounds like bacon frying in a frying pan. Perhaps it is something I am missing, but I've had my time of it. Not going to waste any more chasing this down just to fix Cubase, so I bid it farewell.

    I have an M-Audio interface and the bundled M-Powered Pro-Tools and instead use Reaper for the simple reason that for $60 I can license it (legitimately!) to both my PC and my Macbook, which I use for different reasons; mainly I compose and edit MIDI on the Macbook - move notes around and such - and I do my real recording on the PC with actual mics.

    As for monitors my feeling is there is definitely a cutoff point below which you are risking getting something that is either too used and beat-up to be accurate anymore, or you are getting some horrible Guitar Center ripoff of a speaker that somebody in China has slapped the word "monitor" on, and the only resemblance to an actual monitor is that piece of plastic that says it is. Personally I've heard some bad monitors, and I'm really not impressed with most of them.

    I am holding off until I have the money to buy the real thing. I am thinking minimum $600 and more realistically $1000 as a rough guesstimate of what it will take for me to leap into the realm of actual professional monitors.

    For now I am doing the best I can with a pair of Polk Audio stereo speakers. They are very high quality speakers as far as I can tell, like for example I thought they were busted because I kept hearing this rattle in the left speaker while listening to Heritage, the new Opeth album. I looked at re-coning them or other extreme measures to fix it, or replace them altogether.

    Then I listened to the record on my AKG headphones and guess what? The rattle is in the piano mic (or something)! I heard some type of physical rumble happening in-studio with the keyboard player's drink (my theory), or possibly a loose screw or something. It's on the recording. I don't hear it on my iPod, nor on my computer running iTunes. I'd say if you can hear something like that you've got some pretty decent speakers.

    But flat? No, I have no illusions about that. Like I said I do my best with the situation. Some day. :)
  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Toothgrinder, you might get a kick out of this story? Matthew Polk is from Baltimore. He was a schoolmate of my best friend Philip Brecher where we both went to high school together in Pikesville, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore. I'd built the second-largest studio in Baltimore for/with Philip. Matthew came to us and want us to use his monitors. He said they were far superior to our JBL 4311's which we were running on a Macintosh 2100 transistorized amplifier. So we plugged in his monitors and turned them up to our normal listening level. They promptly blew out and Matthew wasn't happy. LMAO I don't think he ever talked to Philip again? So, while they were pleasant, decent sounding speakers they sure weren't studio monitors. Studio monitors have to be able to cope with a certain amount of professional abuse. His couldn't. Not that you shouldn't use them. You might just have to be a little more gentle?

    I guess you are a gentle engineer? That's good. My good buddy and professional colleague Bruce Kane is also a gentle engineer. And he worked for Rick James who was anything but gentle. I believe Bruce worked under Tom Fly? So you are in good company.

    I'M NOT GENTLE DAMMIT! Maybe it's because I'm not a Gentile?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  8. Toothgrinder

    Toothgrinder Active Member

    The way I use them is I have two circuits wired: casual listening and monitoring.

    Casual listening - bass is crossed over at 150 Hz passively to a Black Widow 15" behind the couch. When I watch Terminator II and the world blows up on Judgment Day it's probably a 3-4 magnitude earthquake going on in there, lol. That would destroy the Polk speakers, indeed!

    Monitoring - I switch to System B, which bypasses the crossover. Since I have no energy below 40-50 Hz (except perhaps in the kick) I know I'm not driving any sub-bass through them. I'm also compressing the low end so there are no major transients happening in my mix.

    So far I've been quite impressed with the SPL those little buggers can handle.

    I'm looking at JBL or Alesis or some of the other brands I've worked with in the system design field. I'm pretty impressed with JBL myself. When I get to that point financially, though, I am also going to build a room because why invest in monitors of that quality if you're not also going to do an acoustic design on the control room itself?

    To me it's all related. These are all components of an integrated system. You need a decent mixing console, good amplification, the right room, and the right monitors.

    That's why home studio recording is a different world than professional recording and will always be. Sure, I can do dental work at home, but I can't do real dental work outside of the clinic. It's also illegal to do so.
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    You're pulling my leg on that one aren't you? I don't want to bite your head off but... I don't have x-ray eyes like Ray Malan.

    WC Fields was a great dentist.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  10. sachit

    sachit Active Member

    I just thought I could help you a little here(though I'm a n00b too). Given the classic SM57, if your amp is half decent you'll get the guitar sound you want far quicker by micing the amp. Move the mic around, experiment and be open minded. Plus a little room sound does wonders to almost any recording.

    The line outs are the worst option IMO, unless you have quality analog preamps on your amps. You'll still need good cabinet simulations on your DAW because the line outs usually tap the preamp and bypass the cab. Plugs/synths are a different story, it depends on what plugs you have and how familiar you are with them. But with a 57 in hand I'd usually try a mic first.

    The bass is a different story, I've never had the opportunity to mic a bass but I get a great bass sound completely in the digital domain.

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